Weekly Devotional

Preparing For Trials and Blessings – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

preparing for trials and blessings

You know a year has been filled with trials when jokes about alien invasions and the general apocalypse sound old.

Many of you reading this have been pushed through truly painful events this year. I know because you’ve commented some of them; and where there’s a few, there’s more.

It’s difficult, when you’re in the midst of a calamity, to influence your level of trust in God. In times like that, you feel like all you can do is dig your fingernails in to keep yourself from falling off the cliff.

There have been myriad times in my life where I’ve been blindsided by terrible news that I was not spiritually prepared for. When this happens, the best response is to throw yourself into the arms of Jesus.

But I’ve walked away from those experiences thinking, “If I would have prepared myself beforehand, I would have had the spiritual maturity to have handled that much better.”

And it’s true.

Isaiah 55:6-7 says, “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”

In these two verses, I think, lies the key to facing both blessings and trials.

And it begs us to self-reflect.

What habits do we have that are wicked?

What thoughts do we have that are unrighteous?

Do we seek the Lord day after day?

Do we seek him while he may be found?

Or only when trials throw us down?

Have we ignored the Holy Spirit’s urging to make significant changes in our lifestyle?

If we have. . . “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” – James 4:17

God makes it clear that he gives us times of calm, and mercifully blesses us with peace and periods of prosperity so that we will invest our time and resources wisely, in ways that honor him and grow us in holiness and maturity.

He created us to be his pure possession, so that we would live a good life out of joy in him, serving others and living free from slavery to our evil.

He gives us money so that we can pay the bills, put food in our loved ones’ mouths, and give to others who are hungry.

Each day, calamity or no, is a gift. So, how do we not waste them?

Thankfully, Scripture tells us.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” – James 1:2-8

It is imperative that we trust that God will actually grow us when we request him to. Otherwise, we will not receive anything from him.

A double-minded man is one who acts dedicated to Christ one day, then acts dedicated to worldly success and selfishness the next. A double-minded man is one who believes God is everything he needs one day, but distrusts him the next.

Why is this true?

Because our belief and behavior go together.

Later in the same chapter of James, we get practical admonitions that back up this reality.

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” – James 1:22-25

And in the next two verses come a final admonition for how to meet both days of trials and days of blessing: “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” – James 1:26-27

This is the spiritual behavior of one who faces both blessings and trials with Godliness.

Let’s pray.

PRAYER

Jesus, we know you will keep us unstained from the world, so long as we surrender our lives to you, and seek your face daily. Give us the strength and desire to live how we believe you want us to. Reveal to us your promises through your word, and take away our distrust. Because you are true, forever, even when we’re unfaithful. Thank you for your word, for your love, and for your power in our lives. Amen.

DIG DEEPER

When life is wonderful, it’s really easy to waste our free time on cheap entertainment rather than on growing closer to the God who crafted our hearts as vessels for his Holy Spirit. It’s funny that we think that will make us happy, because it doesn’t. The Holy Spirit is the source of all joy, so neglecting clinging to him will only result in less joy. So, what’s one habit you have that you want to replace with time spent reading God’s word and drawing close to him in prayer? It could be early-morning social media scrolling time (15 minutes). Or the same in the evening. It could be reading the newspaper, or maybe just getting up fifteen minutes earlier each day. Just write out some ideas, and pick the easiest change to make.

Fighting Laziness – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

My natural desire after punching out at work is to lie around like a bum and enjoy cheap entertainment.

Oh, and snack on chips and cookies.

And ignore every chore possible.

In fact, I’ve been ignoring my evening tasks so much that even after deciding I was going to work ahead on these devotionals, I realized I hadn’t even written this week’s devotional!

So, I figured, “What better devotional to write than something that would help me? Kill two birds with one stone.” (That’s the lazy man’s way.)

I have a sneaking suspicion that laziness is most people’s factory setting.

By nature, we are self-focused, and obsessed with what pleases us.

But Christ calls us to a different sort of life. A life that’s focused on pleasing others rather than ourselves.

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” – Philippians 2:3

So, how do we fight our laziness?

As with every other evil, God’s work in our lives begins with us reading what his word says, then praying to repent and correct our hearts, followed by practical actions in the right direction. (Yep, writing this devotional is me workin’ on it…)

So, let’s hit some Scriptures.

But 2 Thessalonians 3:10 says, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

Kind-of puts a damper on my lazy, evening snack-habits.

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” – Colossians 3:17

So, we’re not to do the bare minimum in our job. Rather, we’re to give our best with the goal being to honor Christ.

But it gets more serious.

“Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” – 1 Timothy 5:8

Yikes.

So, laziness and selfishness is a big deal.

Scripture says that God saved us to make for himself a people ordained for good works.

We work to take care of our family. We do it to the fullest so that Christ is pleased with us. Not for our own gain, but rather to serve our family and God in joy.

Let’s pray.

PRAYER

Jesus, right our hearts. Make us ashamed of our laziness, and forgive us for it! Give us a pure heart that desires to please you and work hard for your joy. Help us to make enough in our jobs to support our families without working ridiculous hours, so that we can also enjoy being with them, and raising our children up with kindness. Thank you for how you provide for our emotional, spiritual, and physical needs. Amen!

DIG DEEPER

What’s one thing you always avoid doing? The dishes? The garbage? Sweeping? The honey-do list? Pick one thing, and just go do it right now while practicing the presence of God. Praise him while you do it. Thank him while you do it. Seek his joy in the

The Only Way to Understand Jesus – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

understand jesus

I remember thinking when I was listening to sermons at about the age of 7 that the Pastor seemed pretty preoccupied with knowing things.

You must KNOW the WORD OF GAWD. You must KNOW the GAWD of the universe.

I reasoned that if it were a big enough deal to be so dramatic about it, I should figure out why.

So, I paid attention in Bible class, did well at memorizing verses for Sunday school competitions, and built up a hefty knowledge of Biblical trivia.

But I never felt more than intellectual interest in Scripture.

Even after I experienced my first eye-opening recognition of my sin and Christ’s sacrifice for my sake, my emotions faded long before they connected with my reading the Bible.

My religion was purely intellectual. There was no throbbing heart of fire at its center.

And when I saw people caught up in seeming religious rapture at worship services, I thought it was self-induced, and that if I weren’t feeling it, it was because I wasn’t raising my hands right, or scrunching my face up correctly, or singing intensely enough.

It sounds ridiculous when flatly stated, but that was the ambiguous impression often lurking at the back of my confusion over those profoundly moved by God and his Word.

So what was the fix?

How can any of us avoid a purely intellectual interest in God, or in the reverse a purely sentimental affection that lacks any substance?

How can we come to truly understand Jesus?

I think the key comes from Jesus’ own advice.

When the disciples wanted Jesus to teach them, he responded with, “Follow me.”

Follow me.

Not “listen to me.”

No, “Follow me. Watch me. Listen to me. Get to know me. Live with me. And in the process, you will grow to love me, because I am everything you’ve ever longed for, and more.”

I had spent my life interested in knowing ABOUT him. But I hadn’t been interested in KNOWING HIM.

It is when we seek him that we get to know him. If our heart is set on knowing him, and loving him, and surrendering to him, then he will reveal himself to us through our reading of the Bible.

As we obediently meet with him in prayer and in reading his Word, he will progressively fill our hearts with his Spirit, his joy, and his passion.

Knowing him is not a simple intellectual pursuit, although that can be a good starting point.

We must move beyond that. Because understanding Jesus is more than that.

It’s the time spent waiting in silence with him.

It’s the time spent measuring our response to people against his response to people.

It’s the time spent reading his Word and pondering his good gifts and promises and creativity and character.

It’s the time spent worshiping him.

It’s the time spent praying and asking him for guidance and help.

It’s the time spent hearing people who have loved him longer tell us about his faithfulness and goodness to them.

It’s the time spent year after year, questioning, understanding, seeking, pursuing the God who shows himself faithful at every turn.

Until we sing with the psalmist:

“O God, you are my God;

earnestly I seek you;

my soul thirsts for you;

my flesh faints for you,

as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,

beholding your power and glory.

Because your steadfast love is better than life,

my lips will praise you.

So I will bless you as long as I live;

in your name I will lift up my hands.

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,

and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,

when I remember you upon my bed,

and meditate on you in the watches of the night;

for you have been my help,

and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.

My soul clings to you;

your right hand upholds me.” – Psalm 63:1-8

Let’s pray.

PRAYER

God, guide us into an intimate understanding of you through our dedicated pursuit of you. Show us the beauty of you and your Word, inspire us to pour ourselves into prayer and reading your Word. Forgive us for our impatience and pride. Give us clear understanding of your will and your personhood, and a passionate love for everything about you. Amen!

DIG DEEPER

Make a list of all the details you know of God and what promises he has given to us. Then try to answer what is remarkable and amazing about each of these elements. The goal is for us to connect our knowledge of him with our heart, so that who he is and what he says finds its way into our hearts, and we connect the meaning with the trivia.

The Garden of Delight – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

garden of delight

I’m the kind of person who gets annoyed at the fact that grass grows after you cut it. Or that beds must be made every time you use them. 

There’s just something about tasks that never end that somehow sullies my good mood. 

Yet I’ve still had a garden for the past few years. 

And despite my daily forgetting that it exists, we’ve managed to grow some delicious food. 

If not for my wife (who has grown fond of gardening) and my daughter (who has grown even more fond of eating every raspberry in sight), I would never have even kept an herb garden on a windowsill.  

Still, I enjoy the bounty. And early in the season, my wife was out of town, so my daughter and I went out and picked our first cucumber of the season. 

As soon as I saw the garden, I remembered it existed (funny how that works). While hastily watering the wilted, heatstroked plants, Willow spotted the cucumber. 

Continue Reading

What to Do When Your Soul is Bleeding – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

What to do when your soul is bleeding

It’s been a month with no posting, so I’m starting this weekly devotional up again, as promised. 

The only problem is I feel like my soul is bleeding worse now than before. 

2019 was a less-than-stellar year. I committed to too much and ended up working 60+ hours a week, got creatively burnt out, and stressed out over family health issues. 

Because of that, I made the decision to pull back on a lot of my writing tasks this year. I was looking forward to 2020 being better. 

Then it decided to be the worst year in recent memory. 

Continue Reading

Brief hiatus from the weekly devotional… here’s why.

So, you may or may not (probably not) have noticed that I haven’t exactly been staying up to date with writing a weekly devotional this past month.

Well, I’ve decided to take a brief hiatus from writing the weekly devotional.

My plan is to take July off, then resume the same weekly schedule in August.

The reason why is I’ve been overwhelmed. Plus, I’m lazy. Plus, I’m bad at administrative tasks. Plus, I never know what day of the week it is, so I keep forgetting to write the devotional in time.

Continue Reading

I’m Bloodthirsty, You’re Bloodthirsty, We’re All Bloodthirsty! – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

One time, when I tried to share with a non-Christian about Jesus’ wonderful sacrifice, they responded with disgust and said that Christianity is a, “morbid, bloodthirsty, violent, and oppressive religion.” 

I was shocked and incredulous. “You don’t understand, Jesus let HIMSELF be killed to set us free.” 

“I know. That’s exactly what I find repulsive about Christianity.” 

That shocked me into silence. What was he smoking?

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized he had a point. 

We speak a lot about penal substitutionary atonement (the fancy term for Jesus taking our punishment). But if we focus on that without accepting our utter sinfulness and rebellion, it’s easy to conclude that God enjoys crushing us, or gets a rise out of setting us up for failure. 

Not to mention penal substitutionary atonement doesn’t give the full Biblical significance of Christ’s shed blood. 

Isaiah 53 is where we get perhaps the clearest picture of Christ taking the punishment we deserved. As a result, God gives us “imputed righteousness.” Essentially, that means that he views us as pure, even though we’re not, because when he looks at us he sees that Christ paid our debt. 

But in actuality, this doesn’t filter down into a changed lifestyle. It’s not a substantive change in who we are. Rather, it’s a change in how God views us. And we know there’s more to Christ’s atonement than that.

Where does that “more” come from? 

Let’s follow the breadcrumbs.

First, we read in Galatians 5:1, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” The freedom here is not just freedom in pretense, but instead an actual freedom from slavery to sin.

In addition, John 6:54 says, “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” The eternal life here is obviously not solely referring to the next life, because elsewhere he says that those who are born of the Spirit bear the fruit of the Spirit in this life

That means there is fruit that is unique to the Spirit that he grows in us.

The fruit of the Spirit doesn’t primarily come from him thinking differently about us. Instead, it comes from a change in the substance of who we are. God doesn’t merely consider us “grapevines.” He MAKES us grapevines by giving us his lifeblood. 

We are truly freed to be holy (1 Peter 1:16), insofar as we walk by his Spirit. 

(With total freedom from evil coming in the next life through the destruction of our flesh and the creation of a new pure body and a new pure earth.)

So, it’s not just that God sees we’re no longer deserving of cosmic spankings (in the form of eternal damnation). It’s also a change in our way of life, through his Spirit changing the substance of who we are, which involves changing our desires. 

Every Christian who has walked with God for some time has experienced this gravity that Christ’s Spirit has, to bend our desires to his will. 

The closer we walk with him, the more our evil desires wither, and the more our desires align with his will. 

But it has always bothered me that I didn’t understand the connection between us drinking his blood and our desires being changed.

Then it hit me that sin is inherently bloodthirsty. 

All human fleshly desires, when taken to the extreme, result in bloodshed. 

Hatred taken to the extreme leads to abuse and murder. 

Lust taken to the extreme leads to rape and murder. 

Lying taken to the extreme leads to the denial of life itself. 

Gluttony taken to the extreme leads to cannibalism, because to encourage the consumption of everything is to encourage eating human beings.

Laziness taken to the extreme leads to letting your family, friends, and even yourself die. 

We can complain all we want about Christianity being a blood-obsessed religion. We’re a blood-obsessed race! 

But only in Christ do we find a God subjecting himself to the bloodthirsty whims of broken human beings, to offer his blood to end all bloodshed. 

When we sinned, evil got into our blood. It distorted our life, and we’ll all die because of it. 

But evil will never be satisfied with feeding off more evil blood. It merely grows hungrier, like a fungus feeding on itself. 

When Jesus was before Pontius Pilate and the mob knew he was innocent, the evil within humanity still cried out, “Crucify him!” 

The only remedy to such insatiable desires would be to feed it the ultimate food: the pure blood of a God who never deserved death. 

This was why he said in John 4:14, “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never thirst again.”

Because pure blood is eternal, and all the sin in the world could spend an eternity gnawing on it only to find itself quenched. 

And so he tells us to symbolically drink his blood, to satisfy not just his wrath, but also our own wicked desires. To not just set us free from death, but to also give new life to our veins.

“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” – Romans 7:24-25

Let’s pray. 

PRAYER

Thank you, Jesus, that your sacrifice both washes us clean, and sets us free from slavery to evil. Thank you that your sacrifice satisfies our desires! Empower us to walk in that freedom, by your Spirit, and to refuse to feed our fleshly desires! Make our evil wither and fall out of our lives. So that we can be totally, completely reconciled to you. To live the full life of actual freedom that you pre-ordained for us in your sovereign plan, even before we were born! Amen. 

DIG DEEPER

What are some of the accomplishments Scripture says God accomplished through the blood of Jesus? Take some time to write out all the accomplishments Scripture claims. (There’s a lot of them!) 

I’m tired. -A Sabbath Selah Devotional (sort-of)

Well, this week flew by, and Friday was half gone before I realized I’d still not written a devotional. So, here I am, at my bed time (I’m basically a grandpa now), trying to churn out something worthwhile. Typing like someone’s tied marionette strings to my fingers, and won’t let me get the words out except by some intense strain of will.

These past couple weeks have been intensely challenging. Death in the family, serious health crises with close loved ones, relational stresses, the list grows longer until it becomes comical.

I’m not saying that for sympathy. Just an explanation of why I’m tired.

Creative energy is different from the energy needed to chop wood. Emotional stresses, anxiety, and fear devour creative energy quicker than a monkey eats a banana. And continuing to create in such a state for very long becomes self-cannibalistic. You begin to devour your own emotions.

So, I just want to thank God for his faithfulness in difficult times like this.

On days when we don’t know what to think — when we’re too tired to think — he’s here. He invites us to lean into him, because he will be our strength.

Have you ever just stopped to realize how incredible that is?

There’s no God like that. No person in the world so faithful, so capable, so compassionate.

Praise God, he’s alive, and he’s alive inside us, and we are his, and he has promised that he is ours.

What a wonder.

PRAYER

Thank you, Jesus, for loving me. Thank you for being everything I can’t be. For your strength when I’m weak. For your confidence when I feel afraid. For your comfort when I feel pain. For your compassion when I mourn. Because you wept. You’re right here in the middle of the pain with me. And you hold my hand every time, and gently pull me through it. To the other side, where the Son always rises–and Death has lost its sting.

DIG DEEPER

Nope. Too tired. Unless it means sleep. Hey, that’s not a bad idea… 😉

Who do you trust when the world goes crazy? – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

Who do you trust when the world goes crazy?

Recently, it’s been feeling like the world is spiraling into chaos.

I keep thinking, “Who in the world do we trust when everyone in the world seems to be going crazy?”

At our core, we live in a body of flesh, and that flesh is at war with the Spirit of God. We betray God, each other, and even ourselves.

How do we find peace in the midst of such turmoil and distrust, anger and failure, disagreement and violence?

First: we let the Scripture remind us that God is actually in control.

Second: we let the Bible remind us that we aren’t the only ones who aren’t crazy.

And third: we choose to fear God, and to let him (not our circumstances) be the source of our peace.

It’s easy to get depressed when people consistently disappoint you. Friends attack you, public figures betray your trust, and family fails to be the peace you hope for.

Remember when Elijah was running for his life from Jezebel, who was sending people out to kill him?

He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” – 1 Kings 19:10

And do you remember how God responded?

He said that there were seven thousand in Israel who had remained faithful.

And how did he say it? In a gentle whisper.

All the bluster God sent before that gentle whisper (the powerful wind that broke rocks, the earthquake, and then the fire) were to show Elijah that he was in control. The gentle whisper was to show him who he was to Elijah, and that Elijah wasn’t the only one.

There are always people who are faithful. Always those who are striving to live a blameless life. Always those who are humble and kind, and gentle and filled with love.

Even when it feels like they’ve all disappeared.

And even when it seems like the world is out of control, God is in control, and he is the one we truly should fear – not our circumstances.

This is why, in times like these, Scripture becomes the rock I cling to.

King David wrote in Psalm 101 about love and justice, and those who are faithful. When it read it the other day, it suddenly seemed so clear that he dealt with the same garbage we deal with today.

Let the words of that Psalm wash over you. I hope it refreshes you as it has refreshed me.

“I will sing of steadfast love and justice,

to you, O LORD, I will make music.

I will ponder the way that is blameless.

Oh when will you come to me?

I will walk with integrity of heart

within my house;

I will not set before my eyes

anything that is worthless.

I hate the work of those who fall away;

it shall not cling to me.

A perverse heart shall be far from me;

I will know nothing of evil.

Whoever slanders his neighbor secretly

I will destroy.

Whoever has a haughty look and an arrogant heart

I will not endure.

I will look with favor on the faithful in the land,

that they may dwell with me;

he who walks in the way that is blameless

shall minister to me.

No one who practices deceit

shall dwell in my house;

no one who utters lies

shall continue before my eyes.

Morning by morning I will destroy

all the wicked in the land,

cutting off all the evildoers

from the city of the Lord.”

God promises that what he gives us is so much better than what we can get in this world that we can be at peace even when everything good in the world seems gone.

So cling to him. Dive into the Psalms and let its truths wash over you. Trust God, fear him instead of this world, and know that you’re not the only one.

Let’s pray.

PRAYER

God, thank you for being trustworthy and merciful to us. Thank you for promising to be our shelter in turbulent times. Thank you for giving us your Word to be our wisdom when we don’t see the way. Guide us through these difficult circumstances, and protect us as we strive to follow you faithfully. Let us be gentle like you. Keep us from accidentally (or worse, intentionally) slandering others, or from being haughty and arrogant. Instead, humble us and give us the strength to be merciful and kind to others! Amen.

DIG DEEPER

Read through Psalm 101 again and write out the specific traits that King David puts in the good category, and in the bad category. Then take active steps to avoid the bad category this week, and to embody the good category.

God’s Wisdom is Gentle – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

God's wisdom is gentle

When I was a kid and I heard someone promoting a false idea, I enjoyed pointing out their error and arguing about it. 

I thought I was wise and spiritual. Really, I was just a punk.

I justified it by saying, “Poor theology is dangerous, so it’s my duty to put them in their place.”

But let’s see what Scripture has to say about this.

James 3:17-18 says, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

What becomes clear even from these few verses is that the entire way I went about “putting people in their place” was evil.

The “wisdom” I was sharing was not coming from a pure motivation. I wanted to be “right,” and to show others they were wrong. It was motivated by pride.

Next, I wanted conflict, not peace. And there was nothing gentle about the way I spoke to people.

I wasn’t open to reason. I was dogmatic. “It’s this way, period. Get over it.”

Neither was I full of mercy or good fruit. I hardly lived out anything I “believed.”

As such, I wasn’t impartial or sincere. I didn’t hold myself to the standard of the text, and I didn’t live it out.

Perhaps the most ridiculous thing about all of this is that I still wondered why my life didn’t bear out the righteousness the Scripture talked about.

Yeesh! I see now the “wisdom” I was hitting people over the head with wasn’t wisdom at all. I am sorry to everyone I ever did this to!

The truth is, this sort of behavior short-circuits God’s work in our lives. And it’s not anywhere near as effective as we think it is.

God is offended when we treat people poorly. And so are the people we’re mistreating.

Instead of pointing out each others’ errors simply because we feel the urge to correct, God’s wisdom urges us to find the right time and the right way to correct error no more harshly than is needed.

If we truly know God, we will be kind like him. We will not be prideful, but instead will treat others as infinitely valuable.

James 4:6-8 says, “’God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

You and me, we’re sinners. We need our hearts and hands purified.

We’re often double-minded in our affections (we serve our own glory, then sometimes God’s glory), and we daily need to bring our focus back to the God who made us for himself.

It’s true that nearly all spiritual growth happens slowly. My growth in this area has been far slower than I feel comfortable admitting. But that’s the reality we have to face, as human beings.

This feels like a goal I’ll be chasing my whole life. But thank God, his wisdom is gentle. And the way he teaches us to be kind to others is both merciful and kind.

He urges us to spend time with him, learning from him what is true and good by his own example of how he treats us.

When we spend time with him, his Spirit changes our own spirit from contentious to peaceable.

Because when we experience peace with Christ, he empowers us to seek peace with others.

When we give up our affections to claim Christ as our most precious treasure, he purifies our hearts to enjoy healthy relationships with others.

A life rooted in and focused on Christ is a life of fullness, peace, and gentle wisdom.

And as he frees us from our fleshly passions, we are actually empowered to correct and teach more effectively in ways that honor and uplift.

Let’s pray.

PRAYER

Lord, fill us with your gentle wisdom. Train our hearts to desire peace with you and others. To speak gently. To be merciful like you are merciful to us. To be sincere and open to reason. As we spend our days loving you, keep our affections undivided. Be our treasure, Jesus! Our most precious reward. Destroy our bitter anger, jealousy, and contentiousness, and replace it with your Spirit of goodness. Amen.

DIG DEEPER

If you struggle with being contentious, like me, this week, memorize James 3:17-18 and recite it in your mind when someone says something that riles you up. Sometimes silence is a better choice in the moment than to speak our minds. We need time to practice this. This is part of God’s wisdom, too.

PS: Next week we’ll be finishing up the series of meditations on Ephesians (meditations in this case meaning “thoughts”). In case you missed the others in the series, check them out here: